RAF Fylingdales – BMEWS Photographs & Story

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RAF Fylingdales – BMEWS Photographs & Story


Building Of The BMEWS At Fylingdales Moor

raf fylingdales in the snow

RAF Fylingdales In The Snow – 1963

The History Of Whitby

This Article, RAF  Fylingdales – BMEWS was first published on 13th Dec 2011 and  is dedicated to my late father George William (Bill) Kilpatrick of Whitby who passed away November 17th 2010. Whilst sorting through some of his belongings my mother came across a set of photographs of my dad working on the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station (BMEWS) at RAF Fylingdales on the North Yorkshire Moors outside Whitby.

The pictures are marked unclassified and before publishing them I sought permission from Flight Lieutenant Mike Foster at RAF Fylingdales.

My mother believes the photos date back to the late 1950’s and early 60’s when my father worked as maintenance supervisor at the base.

From discussions with my father, I recall that the base was one of three identical bases in the northern hemisphere, built to give radar cover for the entire northern hemisphere during the cold war with Russia and the Eastern Block.

I believe this is where the phrase 4 minute warning originated from as the base would give a 4 minute warning in the eventuality of a nuclear strike from The USSR.

Throughout my early childhood I have memories of my dad being away from home for long periods of time. I believe my father was away working on the construction of the other two BMEWS in Thule Greenland and Clear Alaska.

I also believe my father worked on a similar base somewhere in Belgium and again was away from home for long periods whilst working there.

Whilst working on the BMEWS, dad was employed initially by RCA and then more recently Serco for whom he worked from 1950’s right up untill the 1990’s when, believe it or not, one of his final jobs was to dismantle the raydomes he had helped construct 40 years early.

The bolts from one of the raydomes are now used to hold my garden shed together.

To add a final twist to the story, I myself worked on the construction of the new pyramid which replaced the golf balls on Fylingdales Moor in the early 1990’s.

Gallery Of Images From The Initial Building Of RAF Fylingdales. Images are copyright to Real Whitby. Please double click to view full sized images

View All Our Whitby Photo Galleries Here

RAF Fylingdales Newsletter

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By |2014-08-28T22:09:30+00:00August 27th, 2014|Categories: Buildings, Featured, History, Moors, Whitby Photographs|Tags: , , , , |32 Comments

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Website Admin for the Real Whitby Website. All authors of the Real Whitby Website have access to publish on the website. Individual authors will usually sign off their articles with their own names.


  1. Dave Heselton December 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Interesting pictures – My father also worked on the construction of RAF Fylingdales in the early 1960s and he was stranded at the base in the winter of 62 / 63 – I was trying to recognise any of the men on the pictures, in the line of men walking to Goathland station I am pretty sure the front man wearing glasses is Gordon Couzens.

  2. Steve Wood March 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    Thank you for publishing this article! I was stationed here in late 60’s. I was living on base in the airman’s quarters, we did get snowed in a few times although never had to walk to Goathland. We would however walk to the Saltersgate Inn on such occasions and enjoy the hospitality
    which as I recall included a roaring fire in a huge fireplace.

    • Alan Crosby February 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm - Reply

      Hi Steve. My Dad Colin Crosby was stationed at Fylingdales in the late 1960’s (we lived on Castle Park estate in Whitby) and I was wondering if you knew him? The picture of the night shift walking in the snow….I’m convinced that the tall guy leading the walkers is Colin!

      • Babs Hamlet August 18, 2013 at 3:24 pm - Reply

        My dad worked at Fylingdales, I think it was 1968 the first time then again from 1974. I also lived on the Castle Park estate. I have to admit I don’t like the new design and much preferred the ‘Golf Balls’.

    • Hazel Watson August 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      Hi Steve, I remember you. Ohh what fun we had in Whitby 🙂

  3. Geoffrey Powell ..Formally Pallett S A C , RAF GOLDSBOROUGH 1961/3 June 17, 2012 at 9:57 am - Reply

    Dear Webmaster.
    I am really really interested in the Fylingdales site, I was a SAC senior aircraftsman with 5131 bomb disposal sqn billetted at Goldsborough East Barnby camp and we travelled daily to clear the moors so workmen could build safely the station as it is today ,this was clearing munitions left from the last war as it was a firing range then. I was there between 1960 to 63 and as stated the pictures of building the golf balls is wrong being built as early as the 50s . We had not cleared the moors for such building then.. I have many photos of the time if you would like them, I am 71 now and was 21 during these years… if you please get in touch or anyone knows me it will be appreciated regards Geoffrey Powell formally Pallett as I changed my name for family reasons Thank you…my e-mail geoffrey.m3uxb@virgin.net

  4. Geoffrey Powell ..Formally Pallett S A C , RAF GOLDSBOROUGH 1961/3 June 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    Dear Webmaster,
    Thank you so much for putting my comments of my time at Fylingdales on the site.. If anyone remembers me then please feel free to e-mail me.. and if anyone would like any photos black and white of course of our Bomb disposal men at work in the 1960s on the moor I can copy and send if you supply details of your name and address, special thanks go to the gentleman or lady who provided the most interesting pictures of his or her late fathers collection.. Again thank you Geoffrey…

  5. admin June 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    Hi Geoff, Thankyou for getting in touch, We would love to see your photos and publish them onto the site if that’s ok with you ? How are your writing skills ? Perhaps you could write us a short article on what you did, how and when ?? Our email address is realwhitby@gmail.com.

    Best wishes – Glenn

  6. Geoffrey Powell ..Formally Pallett S A C , RAF GOLDSBOROUGH 1961/3 June 24, 2012 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Dear Sir/ madam,Webmaster
    I was asked to provide info or pictures of my time at Fylingdales which I have done .. I have enquired as to whether you have received them to the two links and received no reply.. Could you acknowlege receipt please Geoffrey….

  7. GEOFFREY POWELL March 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    Dear Webmaster,
    Please, in case anyone wishes to contact me change my e-mail address from geoffrey.m3uxb@virgin.net ..to geoffrey.m3uxb@gmail.com.. I am geoffrey powell and was formally geoffrey pallett Ex RAF Bomb Disposal Sqn RAF GOLDSBOROUGH AND FYLINGDALES THANK YOU GEOFFREY…

  8. GEOFFREY POWELL April 8, 2013 at 8:24 am - Reply

    please alter my e-mail address , its g337powell@btinternet.com or geoffrey.m3uxb@gmail.com.. my previous virgin media address does not exist thank you geoffrey powell.formally pallett 5131 bomb disposal sqn raf Goldsborough / Fylingdales thank you..

  9. Gill May 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    The 4 minute warning meant the missile had been picked up and tracked 4 minutes after launch.

  10. GEOFFREY POWELL May 22, 2013 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    You will see my submissions on the site but nobody responds to me and I have so many photos of my time at Goldsborough and Fylingdales , Im sure the material I have would be useful..Please pull your finger out and contact me if you want it.. geoffrey.m3uxb@gmail.com ,I am 72 now and was 20 at the time I was there in 1960s infact I wrote a Monograph about it and my time so if you want this material DO please respond Disappointed no reply… Geoffrey Powell formally Pallett SAC ex 5131 Bomb Disposal Sqn Fylingdales / Goldsborough..

    • Real Whitby Webmaster May 23, 2013 at 11:39 am - Reply

      Hi Geoff, I apologise for not getting in touch, its no excuse but time is really so limited for me at the present time with Work, Family, friends etc its very difficult to keep upto date with the site.

      I think my Friend Vanda has contacted you about your information and pictures. I think it would be good for you to meet with her so you can discuss getting your info and pics onto the site.

      I am very keen to get more stuff like this on the site but at present time is the problem. I would really like to get more people who can write and submit finished articles or even put them onto the site themselves.

      Once again my sincere apologies. Please let us know if you do net get Vanda’s email.

  11. geoffrey powell February 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Please Webmaster ,You will find numerous contributions with my email being Virgin.net……….Please would you alter ALL..ALL.. entries and apply new email address.. as follows geoffrey.m3uxb@gmail.com……..I dont use virgin server anymore.. Thank you Geoffrey Powell .Formally Pallett…….EX 5131 Bomb Disposal Sqn RAF Goldsborough and Fylingdales 1960s..

  12. ronald l. laumer March 31, 2014 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    I was stationed at RAF Fylingdales from 1968 until 1972. One day I hope to return to seethe changes Any former US Air Force there at the time get in touch to renew friendships or just relive old times.

  13. Steve Wood April 1, 2014 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    Ron Laumer, You are well remembered as is your catch phrase “No sweat”!! Steve Crider (USAF)and I (RAF)are in communication and both living on the West Coast U.S. and would like to hook up with you. We are searching also for Sam Vega and others from the same period. We are also on the Facebook page “I survived RAF Fylingdales” Looking forward to hearing from you!!

    • Hazel Watson August 29, 2014 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      Steve I shared my 21st Birthday with a USAF guy in May 1973. Wish I could remember his name. The party was held in the Cellar bar at Sheila’s ? (she was a tiny pretty young lady who worked in Admin at Fylingdales) parent’s house. It was one of those fabulous 4 storey Victorian houses on the street just behind The Royal. It was near to where Barbara Steele, RIP lived in a flat. The family had not lived there long and were originally from Nottingham. I really need to take a trip up to Whitby to check all our old ‘haunts’ out and because I love it there. Last visit was about 4 years ago and I did go look at my little house on Derwent Road, Castle Park and was amazed and delighted to see roses growing in front 🙂

  14. Thomas Fletcher June 19, 2014 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Worked at site during snowstorm of 1963. Airlifted by RAF to Whitby. Radio Corp America. Any image of storm appreciated. Thanks.

  15. Jim Evans November 10, 2014 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    The ground work for Fylingdales was started in mid 1961/early 1962. A labour camp (not for nothing was this camp called “The Klondike”) was established near the site entrance to accommodate hundreds of highly paid contractors who arrived from every quarter of Britain.

    By the early winter of 1962 the three radomes were nearing completion and the fitting out trades were busily adding the final touches. How the complex ever got finished on time is a miracle since the winter of 62/63 was the most severe on record with sub-zero temperatures for many weeks.

    The snow plough crews operated by the pool drivers from the MPBW and RCA Ltd did a fantastic job in keeping the roads open as did the drivers from the NRCC with their high speed ex- US army MACs who forged their way through some mighty big snow drifts.

    During the period 1962 to 1973 I was a technician working for RCA and was one of those unfortunate victims of the “white out” that prevented the majority of workers from getting there. I was trapped in for ten days before the roads could be re-opened to traffic. As a key worker, I was not permitted to escape via the snow cats which were used for emergency trips only.
    The station came on-line in May or June of 63. The interior of those Radomes was an eery place, the constant hum and whirr of powerful hydraulic motors added to the drama. When the parabolic dishes were silenced for routine maintenance any conversation was confusing to say the least..The acoustics created echoes that reverberated repeatedly. Like so many others here who remember the “Golf Balls”, I was saddened following their demolition. The somewhat ghostly images set against the often dark, hostile and somewhat intimidating landscape during those uncomfortable cold war years still brings shivers down my spine.

    My unwavering memory of those days still haunts me, during many a night-shift, there was nothing quite so sinister as the sound of loud click over the Tannoy PA system, followed by the strained tones of the station commanders voice …”Confidence report NOW…Confidence report NOW!! …..Most of us working there knew what this meant and I never got used to it…I could have been drawing my last breath for all I knew.

    • Real Whitby Webmaster November 10, 2014 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Jim, Thankyou soo much for such an elaborate contribution. Its relly appreciated.

      • Alan Crosby November 11, 2014 at 3:41 pm - Reply

        Hi Jim. My Dad Colin Crosby also worked for RCA. Did you know him?

  16. lee blunt December 28, 2014 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Love the memories

  17. Anne Boston August 5, 2015 at 6:15 am - Reply

    I worked at Fylingdales from 1967-69 when my husband and I emigrated. I worked in the typing pool first then was transferred to engineering as clerk/typist. I worked for Frank Hamshere and John Wright (or Wrightson) and Pete Rothery. I loved working there and also remember being snowed in twice, once just after Boxing Day 1967 then in April 1969. Happy memories of great people.

    • Stefanie Ladley June 1, 2016 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Anne – hope you get to see this message – my father. John Wright worked at Fylingdales at around that time & whilst I know it’s a common name, I wonder if it is the same John? He died when I was 10 (1980) so I don’t know as much as I’d like to. Any memories you have would be great to hear.

  18. Paul Rayner August 9, 2015 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Great pictures, my late father Jim Rayner worked as a electronics technician (systems checkout engineer?) cannot remember exact title! We lived in Scarborough and I remember him getting picked up by the Wallace Arnold coaches for the hourly commute, occasionally he missed the coach and used to chase after it in his Austin Westminster 3 Litre. He took early redundancy just after the pyramid construction. I have his mug RCA 20 years of service 1964-1984 with the golf balls on it!

  19. John Hatfield October 25, 2016 at 11:44 am - Reply

    The comments and pictures of Fylingdales bring back many memories. My name is John Hatfield and I was the Personnel Supervisor from 1961 to 1963. Previously I was one of a team of three who recruited the technical staff for the site.

    When I moved to the Site, I was living in Scarborough and, like most of the staff, boarded a Wallace Arnold bus at 07.00 to take us to work. Sometimes I would go by car, but only when I had to travel to either Whitby or Scarborough for interviewing purposes. Initially, my main job was to recruit all the clerical staff that were needed, but when they were in post I was asked to do other things. One of these was to recruit an editor for the new Site magazine, “Scan” of which you have at least one copy. These were produced on a monthly basis, but when our editor left for another job with a local newspaper, I took over as editor and produced some copies, before I left, also for another job.

    One of the old photographs you show in Scan was of a blockage on the Pickering Road after a snowfall. The first one that I remember was in the spring of ’63, when a petrol tanker blocked the road and no one could get in or out. Emergency sleeping arrangements were made and food was supplied from the canteen. As the site had to be kept working it was decided that non operational staff should leave so as to conserve what food supplies were available. Accordingly, I was asked to lead a group to Pickering, down the railway line, where we could get a train to Scarborough. A similar party was sent to Whitby. As all the group were fairly young and active, there were few problems on the walk and we got home safely. Obviously, the blocked roads were soon cleared and we were once more on the buses to work.

    The only other names I now remember are Frank Mansfield, my Welfare Officer, and Ken Banks the Site Manager. Any ideas of what happened to them and who were later Site Managers?

    As I am now in my late eighties, perhaps my memory is failing, but some of those early days at Fylingdales are still clear and I would like to hear from anyone who was around in those “early days”.

  20. David Samways August 2, 2017 at 1:00 am - Reply

    I have just come across this forum, is it still open?

    I also worked at Fylingdales during the 62/63 bad winter for the Marconi Company who were responsible for the microwave communications networks to the south and east coasts. I have photos and other documentation if folks are interested.

  21. John Moss February 19, 2018 at 11:55 am - Reply

    I found this website/article by chance and felt I must comment. Yes I knew “Bill” Kilpatrick he was on my team in the RMS.section.I am getting a bit old in the tooth now so my memory is not what it was but yes, he was like a cat on a hot tin roof skipping around the antenna at speeds that made me close my eyes ( I have no head for heights)
    I always remember his words when I told him to slow down Quote “I have one hand for me and one hand for the company”and he stuck to that he sure knew how to hang on.
    Two other names i remember in that section were Joe Ebblewhite and Eddy Woodcock.
    I think I recognise some of the other names in the comments definitely one Jim Rayner he too was on my team,I am also pretty certain that in the photo.”Night Shift” I am the 4th.head in from the left!!
    The good old days ???

  22. barrie kissack March 26, 2018 at 10:40 am - Reply

    fyling dales
    I worked with both Gordon couzes -a radio ham like me
    alsp colin Crosby.
    barrie kissack.
    the recent weather brought back 1962 when I came home by helicopter.

    • Geoffrey Powell Formally SAC Pallett Ex RAF April 13, 2018 at 6:32 am - Reply

      Hello Barrie,
      I too am a radio ham call M1EDF ,I was working at Fylingdales in 1961/63 on 5131 Bomb disposal sqn, clearing UXO, I have many photos of that time ,It was a artilliary range in the war and a lot of UXO was left behind We chaps had to make the site safe stage by stage for the build, I am disappointed with this site it could contain a lot more photographic evidence and up to date stories but I do not think this site is very well managed and given the attention necessary for interesting reading.. nuf said but I am on qrz.com if you would like to email I will send really good pics of that time during and covering the winter of 1962, I wrote a history of my time at RAF Goldsborough domestic billetting site and Fylingdales I have old black and white pics.., Were you in the RAF Barrie , My kind regards Geoff powell, age now 76 Formally Pallett changed name for family reasons..geoffrey.m3uxb@gmail.com

  23. Thomas Fletcher January 31, 2019 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    I worked for RCA Service Co. at Fylingdales for about six months from Sept 1962 to March 1963 as a Tech Writer Manual coordinator. Provisional Tech Manuals were being documented in Riverton NJ and I was to verify and resolve questions that Stateside Writers had concerning specifics. Also I worked with RCA International personnel in Sunbury to ensure and support their “planning” for a follow on Maintenance Control Program of BMEWS hardware to compatibility with Maintenance Control at other BMEWS Sites. Was evacuated via RAF HELICOPTER DURING THE January blizzard.

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